Letter: Take action to save Austin treasure

Published 9:25 am Wednesday, October 5, 2016

I am writing this letter on behalf of my family, and I hope countless other Austin families once they read this. I do not think many people realize that on October 11th, one of Austin’s treasures is slated to be removed. I am referring to the gigantic cottonwood tree that has shadowed the East Side Lake dam for hundreds of years.

The Oakland Avenue bridge that spans the base of the dam is in dire need of replacement, and this replacement is starting on October 11th. Because of this bridge replacement, in its current design, the tree has to come down. I spoke with Mower County Engineer, Mike Hanson last week regarding this tree, and its pending removal. I pleaded my case stating that this tree has stood on that very spot years before the dam, or the original bridge was even constructed. Mike explained that the additional bike lanes that will be added to the bridge design per Vision 2020’s request, required that the tree be removed for structural reasons. I now understand the reasoning for the removal, but I want all people to know that this magnificent tree may possibly be spared if we review, and possibly revise the bridge design.

I applaud Vision 2020 for their tireless work to make Austin an even better community, but I feel that on this one case, we cannot see the forest through the TREE. Are there other options for the bike lane that could possibly save this tree? Were these options looked at, or was the fate of the tree merely an oversite?

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We owe our next generations a vital community with great infrastructure, but we also owe them the beauty that nature has given us. I hope it is not too late to act upon and save this tree, but if it is, I do owe this tree it’s voice, and cannot with clear conscience not speak up.

Brendhan G. Wagner, Austin